While they were undeniably compelling to watch, the men’s and women’s Olympic road races last weekend were also horror shows, in a way.
The carnage from crashes on the treacherous technical descent of the Vista Chinesa included on the men’s side:
- Italian (Giro d’Italia champ) Vincenzo Nibali fractured his collarbone, requiring surgery. He’ll be out for several weeks recuperating.
- Australian Richie Porte fractured his scapula (shoulder blade). Porte won’t need surgery but is also out several weeks.
- Columbian Sergio Henao fractured his iliac crest (the upper, outside portion of the pelvis, or hip bone). He likewise is out for weeks.
And among the women:
- Dutch rider Annemiek van Vleuten suffered a severe concussion and three small fractures to her spine. No word on the length of her recovery time, but later accounts did indicate that she’s expected to recover from the spinal fractures.
Add to this the all-too-familiar (to those of us who regularly follow cycling) crowds on climbs encroaching on the riders to the point of both distraction and safety concerns, and you have an Olympics cycling experience over the first two days that created an alarming display to many non-cycling viewers.
At a social event Sunday evening, friends who know I’m an avid cyclist came up to me to ask about what they had seen in the races. They couldn’t believe that the rowdy fans were actually allowed to get close enought to touch (and pat, hinder, annoy, et al) the riders along the course. Think about it: What other sport allows that? I told them about Chris Froome actually punching one jerk during the Tour this year.
Combined with the terrible crashes they witnessed, the casual viewer came away with a somewhat jaded impression about road cycling.
I don’t have the answers to the problems, but somebody (the UCI, the ASO – which owns and runs the Tour de France and many other races around the world, race teams or the cyclists themselves) needs to say “enough is enough” and start seeking real solutions.
A critical mass of incidents and injuries owing to bad organization, flawed courses, neglect, oversight, terrible logistics and other factors is threatening to overshadow the racing these days.
Think about all the craziness in the just-completed Tour de France (crashes from the flamme rouge, 1km to go banner, falling on a rider on stage 7 – caused by a spectator, by the way; the infamous Chris Froome-into-Riche Porte-into-stalled motorbike crash on Mont Ventoux – caused by a crush of fans onto the road; Dutch rider Jan Bakelants tweeting about his own fan-based crash – “People leave your flags at home. They add nothing and only bring us in danger. Had a bad crash due to a drunk guy with a flag @letour”
Look, road racing is inherently dangerous as it is. All the nonsense that compounds that inherhent danger needs to be removed from the equation. It’s reached the point of being a significant distraction.
We don’t want any cycling jokes akin to the old hockey canard: I went to a fight and a hockey game broke out. Heck, even hockey finally wised up to its fighting problem and changed things (somewhat). Cycling needs to step up and do the same.
Question of the Week Results Update
Let’s start with a Question that really resonated with readers, garnering well over 1,000 votes: What Traffic Situation Causes You the Most Angst While Riding?
Probably not surprisingly, ranking as the top vote-getter, with 37% of the vote: “Being passed too closely by a motor vehicle” – aka, getting “buzzed.”
I know it scares the bejeesus out of me every time it happens. And, invariably, I’m left scratching my head at the sheer ignorance of the driver who does it; like the other day, when I got buzzed on a short section of 4-lane road that I have to ride on to get home on my normal route. It’s a light-traffic road at most times of the day (and this was one of those), but the driver didn’t even seem to realize she could legally move into the left lane and totally avoid me. Instead, she hugged the striped lane divider and passed me with maybe a foot of distance between us. Crazy!
A distant 2nd, with just under 20% of the vote, was: “Distracted drivers, whom you can see eyeballing their various devices, etc.”
These certainly scare me, too, but it’s the potential of their actions that are frightening.
Next, with 17% of the vote, was: “A car turning abruptly in front of you, across your path.”
Following that, representing 10% of the vote, was: “Getting harassed or abused by a motorist or passenger in a car.”
Finally, with a handful of votes each, were Cars approaching from behind, in general; Turning left across a busy street; A driver opening a door in front of you as you get close; and Crossing a busy intersection.
Next up: What is the highest altitude you have ridden on a bike?
I’ve gotta say, a surprisingly big percentage of RBR readers have gotten very high in their lifetimes!
In fact, leading the vote tally, with 30%, was the next-to-highest choice provided: Up to 14,500 feet (4,420m)
Just under that, with 28% of the vote, was: Up to 9,500 feet (2,896m)
From there, it dropped down significantly, to 11% choosing: Up to 7,500 feet (2,286m)
And then, with just under 10% of the vote: Up to 2,500 feet (762m)
Maybe the most surprising responses to this Question were from the 19 readers who chose: Higher than 14,500 feet (4,420m)
Don’t Sweat the Cramping
And finally: How Do You Combat Cramps While Riding – Especially in the Heat?
This one was seemingly more predictable, falling into place much as I expected.
An overwhelming majority, 43%, of readers voted: I drink water and a sports drink.
Another 17%, the lucky ones among us, chose: I never suffer from cramps.
A little over 15% of you choose to add a little something to your water, selecting: I take a supplement such as SportsLegs.
To me, at least, the surprise came in the over 11% of you who chose: I drink plenty of water, but just water.
I guess that just proves that our bodies, no matter how similar we are, all work somewhat differently in terms of our unique chemistry! Getting by without replacing electrolytes on a hot, sweaty ride is simply something most of us cannot do without paying a price.